Thursday, September 04, 2008


“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5).

Every fishing trip should be this easy.

John and I walked onto the pier. I baited his hook with a slimy piece of shrimp. John cast his line in such a way that the bait flopped into the water not far from us. And then before the ripples had time to settle a fish took the bait. One cast, one fish. Another dad and his son had been on the pier for much longer without catching anything. “You just hit a home run your first time at bat,” he said.

Cast and catch. That would have made Simon envious. Simon spent an entire night lowering his nets – and came up with nothing.

I’m rethinking Simon’s role in this story. I’ve usually understood Simon’s response to Jesus as a begrudging compliance. He seems to humor Jesus, winking at his business partners as he puts back out to deeper waters. I’ve seen him as one who has little more than a polite respect for Jesus. That’s the only thing that gets him back out after a night of futile fishing: mere obedience to Jesus’ word.

But it’s a hard thing to lower your net and bring it up empty again and again. The repeated nothingness begins to raise questions, it shakes our hope, it breeds anger. When the nets come up empty often enough, mere obedience to Jesus’ word is all we have. But maybe that’s enough.

We pray only because Jesus said to ask and seek. Those prayers are still heard and answered.

We love our neighbor only because Jesus told us to do so. It still counts and it’s still radical in our world of self-interest.

We serve others only because Jesus modeled being a servant and told us to follow his example. The act of serving still forms in us the likeness of Jesus.

And then the blessing comes. Peter’s reluctant response to Jesus’ word couldn’t stop it. Grace came and stretched nets to the breaking-point and nearly sank the boats with fullness.

Jesus speaks his word into your life today, perhaps calling you back to a place where your net has come up empty time after time. It’s hard to go there, but Jesus goes with you. Your act of obedience is enough for this day. Keep doing what Jesus asks. Keep walking where Jesus leads.

There are days, Lord Jesus, when I think I cannot bear to see the nets empty again. There are days when I question you because of what my life lacks. And yet you speak. You speak the word of invitation, and in your word is all my hope. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 30:5). Amen.

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